For most people, there is no avoiding the fact that getting a traffic ticket is just going to screw up your day. No matter where you are going or what you have planned, no one puts “get a traffic citation” on their to-do list. It is, therefore, not surprising that regardless of whether you are having a great day or a lousy one, a traffic ticket is going to negatively impact your day. The inconvenience of sitting on the side of the road while the cop makes you jump through the usual hoops of, “Do you know why I stopped you?” or, in the case of speeding, “Do you know how fast you were going?” is bad enough. Add to that the embarrassment of other drivers slowing down to gawk as if you are an escaped felon and the amount of time it takes the cop to go through his usual protocol of checking your license and registration. By then, your day is pretty much shot.
This is the scenario for everyone who gets pulled over. Let’s face it; it is not an enjoyable experience for anyone except maybe for those police officers who seem to take joy in wielding the modicum of power bestowed upon them over drivers and other citizens. We have all met or heard about this kind of law enforcement official. Sometimes, he’s the street cop who has simply become inured by too many years of dealing with people of questionable character. Other times, it’s a matter of the abused becoming the abuser. These are the guys who got bullied in high school and think that the only respect they will get is the result of feeling as though they are superior to the rest of us. Sure, there are a few police officers who truly believe that it is their job to follow the letter of the law, but I think those guys are few and far between.
It can be a tough world that we live in. This is bound to have an impact on police officers taking a more negative view of drivers who commit serious traffic violations such as evading the police. Their training, and often experience, teaches them to be suspicious of everyone. A moment of inattention when eliciting a traffic stop could conceivable cost an officer his life. This is a travesty, yet part of the job that they sign on for. Regrettably, the possible dangers that a cop may face seem to be the final nail in the coffin of Officer Friendly. Statistically, a cop could go his entire career without ever having to face an incidence of violence when making a traffic stop. Truly criminal behavior which results in violence does occur and this can understandably make cops nervous, but at some point common sense and discretion should enter into the picture.
As a traffic ticket attorney, for me the problems arise when the same methods are used by cops against drivers who commit even the slightest driving infractions as those tactics used with drivers who behave erratically. Although I can understand the rationale for their caution, each individual is entitled to the standard of innocent until proven guilty. Stepping all over someone’s civil liberties on the off-chance that they may be a maniac is hardly a sound solution to the problem. Most of us were raised to hold police officers in high esteem, but unfortunately it sometimes only takes being stopped once by a cop who automatically treats you like a hardened criminal to change one’s perception.
Whatever a cop’s motivation may be, when an officer issues a traffic citation to someone, it usually starts with the driver being chagrined, but ends up costing a lot of time, money, and headaches. Being treated rudely or in an unfair manner only exacerbates the issue. We are left feeling like we are at the mercy of the cop’s previous experiences.
For the most part, drivers don’t usually set out to commit traffic violations, so it’s not uncommon for a driver to be upset when it happens. This, however, is not the time to let your emotions get the best of you. With cops often on edge already, getting angry or otherwise having a bad attitude toward the cop is only going to make the situation worse. Remember that he may have pulled you over for one traffic offense, but he will probably ended up looking for other reasons to cite you if you antagonize him.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you act nervous, it’s probably going to heighten the officer’s wariness. Don’t offer up too much information because, again, you don’t want to give him anything to use against you later on. Just try to be as neutral and polite as possible because you don’t want him to remember that you pissed him off when you face him in court if you decide to fight your traffic ticket.
Whether you hold police officers in high regard or view them with disdain, they hold all the cards at the time you are pulled over. It is true that officers very seldom let drivers off with just a warning anymore and often treat drivers with the presumption of guilt, but they do still have the option to just issue a warning. The more cooperative you are, the greater your chances are of getting just a warning. Maybe you will be one of the lucky few, but if not, the ramifications can be tremendous. A hefty fine and insurance rate hikes can be expected if you just pay the fine or if you unsuccessfully fight your traffic ticket.